Memoirs of New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference in Abuja #NMCG2016. By Olusegun Olagunju

New Media, Citizens, and Governance Conference have come and gone but the memories will be with us for decades to come.

Hosted by BudgIT, EiENigeria and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria. The event encapsulated and gave a crisp dialysis of NEW MEDIA and the roles of CITIZENS.

The event which lasted from 26th to 27th October, 2016 has New Media, Citizens and Governance as its theme.

It was a pleasant experience for me, Tech savvy, New Media moguls, Motivational speakers, Men and Women of high repute, Journalists, Lawyers, Human Rights activists all converged from different parts of Africa to discuss “Rights and Responsibilities”

Kenya and Tanzania were represented and made the 2-day event a memory to convert and document.

There were so many top-notch moments in the event that lasted for 2 days. There was an increasing level of enthusiasm as many‎ of the speakers were introduced. This gave a strong signal that we were in it to have a real NEW MEDIA experience.

‎As we were launched into the segment of Rights and Responsibilities of citizens and Government in using new media in a mutually beneficial way, the Senior Economic Adviser, Africa Economic Development Initiative; Oby Ezewkesili explained to us why “you can’t retire from The Office of the Citizen of the Federal Republic”. She was elaborate and She made clear the obfuscated shifts in the minds of citizens about how our participation in Governance of our country should be. She said “Social contract forms the way that the Government and Citizens relate. There are roles, rights, responsibilities that support this.”

One thing that stood out as the high point of her speech is that “Majority of the adult #Nigerians never really understood the political system called #Democracy”

This led us to have a deep feeling of how coarse Nigeria is and the terrain too unjust for the timid youths. ‎She however gave advice and she said “My suggestion: Before the next NMCG, there should be a massive work by the populace at KNOW YOUR CONSTITUTION “. She advised that we apply strategy to our actions as “Hashtags are necessary conditions for effecting action but it are not sufficient” ‎ She buttressed her points and further stressed that “The knowledge is key barrier to the consolidation of the constitution of Nigeria” as in her words “I was called a Saboteur when I was in government”

Moving on, we had the Senior Legal Officer for the Africa Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative in person of Dr. Chidi Odinkalu and Representative of the Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA) discussed New Media and National Orientation. They threw light on role of Media in citizens’ education.
Chidi Odinkalu was particularly fluid and made his points as clear and straight as possible. He said “I do not think the Government has done enough in closing the gaps of geopolitics in terms of ‎Education” as”Education is over-parastatalized”. He gave very concise examples and related it to the ugly condition our Education has been relegated to.

He believes that “Education is the New Frontier”. He also gave a staunch note that “Nigeria has also changed positively and negatively on culture, one that has changed positively is Bigotry”. He however asked us to move away from dogmatism and embrace oneness and purge ourselves of all intents that lack spontaneity and originality.

Day one of the event also brought focus on how Citizens have taken actions on issues in their community on governance, accountability, and transparency to us. With Hamzat Lawal of Connected Development, Egghead Odewale who is the Chief of Staff to the Minister of Steel and Solid Minerals, Abayomi Akinbo of BudgIT Nigeria all speaking from different pedestals and giving insightful tips on how we should agitate for implementation of the projects the Government has earmarked in different communities.

Mr Egghead Odewale spoke in an elaborate fashion about how government senses our Social Media agitation.

Mr Hamzat was intricately debating on the Success himself and his team were able to achieve from #SaveBagega and other things involved using conventional media tools as well as new media tools. He stressed further that ‎”The good thing is we have FOI but it’s unfortunate that some of our governors don’t even respect this”.

The Last option for Day 1 was unveiled and we have a broad discussion on Effective and Efficient Law Making which was moderated by the Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) with inputs from Samson Itodo and Adeboye Adegoke of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria respectively. These young men made long cases towards the process of raising the masses to some assigned power.
Extensive debate about the #NotTooYoungToRun bill ‎was made and it was properly lit.‎ Samson added that “We are yet to appreciate the concept of inclusion” and that “Democracy is all about inclusion”

Day 2 of the event was properly engaging with a wide range of topical issues to ‎debate.

Over the issue of New Media and Elections, we understood that New Media continues to play a crucial role in elections on the continent.
The speakers were able to pull the strings and gave strong points. Fatu Ogwuche was one of the panelists and she’s advised “We as Nigerians need to move from toxic conversation to engaging conversation” in the journey to democratic ascension. Moreover, she killed the motion that we can outright reduce the cost of conducting elections in Nigeria. To some people she says ‎”Election is an enterprise, people make a lot of money off elections” and “People like to spend money around elections”

Chuks Ojidoh of Governance Program of Community Life Project (CLP) said ‎”What else we need to use Social Media for is for Civic Education”

Captain Umar Aliyu of GoldWater & RiverSand Consults was the sole speaker on New Media and National security. He engaged the moderator, Gbenga Sesan on whether New Media is threat to National Security. He had a lengthy and articulate discussion, expressing himself easily and clearly on How New Media has influenced or impacted on Matters concerning security.

With concise analysis, he gave a brilliant speech each time a question was asked him. He started off by saying “Facebook is a global notice board and I use it to get Pulse shots”.

He went on further to say “New Media is a threat to National Security” and “There are challenges in our Security and the challenges, with New Media – can prompt our security to grow/explore” ‎
He exuded intellectuality and was on point as he held sway for the 1 hour he was on the podium. When a question “How do the Military get to engage with citizenry and Vice-Versa?” was asked from the audience. He was affirmative as he answered ‎”‎Military – Civil relations is just 3% awake in ‎Nigeria” and that “‎We‎ haven’t taken time to break the Ice as we have Myths surrounding the Soldier”

The Engagement Unusual segment was the talk of the 2-day event as Speakers from different sides of life divide were represented. Sitawa Wafula, Blogger from Kenya, Bobrisky the controversial internet sensation, Kunle Idowu aka Frank Donga and PR Expert Femi Falodun all came to the stage and gave a very good description of themselves.

Frank Donga showed brilliant brilliance, Femi Falodun had a lot to speak about and Sitawa Wafula gave breathtaking speeches that got us all drowned into the reality of life.

Sitawa Wafula gave a whapping story into her life about how she has decisively dealt with Epilepsy and has had to cope with the stigma that attaches to rape victims and survivors.

A short video clip of about 4:15 minutes was surprisingly beamed to the large screen as Sitawa Wafula explained how to tackle mental illness. This video clip titled “A Little More” got us all in awe and moved many to tears. She added dexterity and passion to her segment of discourse as she laid on stage to give few tips on how to restore an Epileptic patient back to normalcy.
Sitawa Wafula demonstrated passion and zeal – making sure the aura in explaining mental psychology to the listening participants captivated the whole auditorium.

The closing part of the event was most definitely the best. Media Aides of top guns in the Government of Nigeria came through to discuss Managing Social Media accounts for Public Officials. The discussion spans how public officials’ Social Media accounts reflects the thoughts of its owners and how they are able cope with intricate issues surrounding their roles.

Ifeanyi Aniagoh, media Aide of Anambra State governor said ‎”One thing you need to know is, Government doesn’t end on your desk as a Media Aide” ‎

Lesson learnt. It is important to us as Youths to harness and harmonize our strengths for a common goal and in pursuing this, we should be law-abiding.

Olagunju Paul Olusegun.

AboutHamzat Lawal
Hamzat Lawal is an activist and currently the Co-Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE]. He is working to build a growing grassroots movement of citizen-led actions through Follow The Money for better service delivery in rural communities. He is also a Leader of the Not Too Young To Run Movement.

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